Compaq Computer joined the race Monday to position itself as a provider of tools and services to help small and medium-sized businesses take advantage of electronic commerce.
The computer maker announced it has formed a partnership with Bigstep.com to provide businesses with free Web site hosting services and a variety of tools so they can get online and start conducting transactions.
Compaq joins a growing field of companies, from banks to phone companies to office supply retailers, who are looking to form closer bonds to their customers through the free services. They also hope to earn new revenues by offering those businesses value-added services, such as customer relationship management and transaction processing.
Under the terms of the agreement, Compaq will market the Bigstep.com service with its Prosignia family of products through a built-in browser connection. Compaq will also feature a cobranded connection to Bigstep.com's services on its own Web site.
"This provides us with a means to significantly broaden the reach of our service," said Andrew Beebe, Bigstep.com's co-founder.
Some of Bigstep.com's competitors, most notably eCongo.com, have begun offering private label versions of their services to Internet portals. However, Beebe said, that is not part of his firm's strategy. He said cobranding provides a better way to promote the company's main property - Bigstep.com.
The San Francisco start-up also announced Monday that it has struck a deal with Card Services International and ClearCommerce, to provide merchants with a 72-hour turnaround on credit card processing approvals.
"What we're saying is that in three days you can be taking credit card payments from your Web site," Beebe said.
Compaq Computer can be reached at www.compaq.com
Bigstep.com can be reached at www.bigstep.com
eCongo.com can be reached at www.econgo.com